In the late nineteenth century, the religion, nationality, and citizenship of abandoned children became a contested terrain over which much effort was spent by local authorities, foreign missionaries, religious and civil leaders of the communities, municipalities, the police force, and the central state. Relying on Ottoman and French archival sources, together with periodicals and contemporary literature, this paper discerns the elevated political significance of abandoned children within such realms as demographic politics, politics of conversion, and national identities. The state's new preoccupation of properly registering new-born infants, in line with the new Regulation on Population Registration created controversy over the nationality and citizenship of abandoned children. As new administrative reforms challenged the customary jurisdiction and the autonomy of the communal authorities and as the power of the governmental bureaus, police departments, the municipality, and the foundling unit of the Dârü'l-aceze increased, non-Muslim leadership resisted these practices: they both submitted official appeals to the government and opened or strengthened their own foundling facilities. Furthermore, the child gathering efforts of Catholic missionaries created an atmosphere of self-defense on the part of the communities, as they felt threatened with losing prospective members of their newly conceived and idealized imagined communities. In this context, abandoned children attracted interest hardly due to pity, or disinterested charity. Institutional solutions, policies, and strategies of diverse and competing actors were closely related to the emergence of a modernized governmental structure and attempts to strengthen communities as its mirror image.